In my second post of the Pelvic Organ Prolapse series, titled “Failure Hurts,” I went into more detail about how I felt going through the partial hysterectomy. As time went on, I began to shut down regarding the loss of my uterus and the emotional pain I felt. I learned to ignore its absence and rationalize its loss.
I pushed my feelings aside and just went on with life, not truly thinking about whether or not it still bothered me. My best defense mechanism is my sense of humor, I made jokes about not having a uterus and laughed on the outside but definitely hid my feelings on the inside.
Unfortunately, my prolapse issues didn’t come to an end. I went on to experience three more prolapses in a span of thirteen years. I will talk about two of them in this blog.
“Prolapse, which is caused by a weakening of the vaginal tissues, is often associated with pregnancy and childbirth; however, prolapse can happen in women who have never had children. Prolapse is also associated with repetitive heavy lifting, chronic constipation, chronic cough, and poor tissue.” (quoted from www.utswmedicine.org)
Genetics also play a role in prolapse and having prolapse surgeries run in my family. My mom had a hysterectomy when she was in her 40s. In addition to the prolapse issues that I had, I am also a chronic / severe asthmatic. My life has included a lot of coughing and taking a lot of steroid medication to breathe which can damage the skin and tissues. Genetics and asthma, combined with giving birth to my daughter were influential in my original prolapse and lead to the next two.
2003: Bladder Prolapse
I experienced the usual problems associated with a bladder prolapse including urinary difficulties, incontinence, discomfort and a lot of embarrassment. I was in my early 30s and thought the days of prolapsing were long gone, but they weren’t. My bladder dropped and I had to talk to my doctor. It was pretty frustrating, considering I’d just had surgery for a prolapse a few years before.
After much time spent with a new gynecologist, it was decided that my bladder needed repair. I had surgery at a university hospital in Germany. It went well, without complication. This surgery didn’t really have a negative impact on me like the first operation. This was truly a repair and it was intended to be good for my bladder and provide me with a normal life again.
For approximately ten years, I didn’t experience any major problems with my pelvis. From 2005 – 2009, I suffered severe problems with my asthma (another blog series) but I was fortunate enough to be relatively healthy in the non-existing reproductive area of my body until 2013.
2013: Posterior Prolapse
In 2013, I experienced a very painful small bowel prolapse which made my life uncomfortable once again. I made the first possible appointment with my gynecologist and told her about the problems and asked what we should do.
I was sent to the hospital to see what the surgeon thought. I was diagnosed with a posterior prolapse but he felt that surgery would not help me. He prescribed two months of physical therapy, along with various medications before agreeing to consider surgery. I did the therapy and the therapist felt that my body was strong, just not the pelvic floor. We did what we could, surgery was the last option.
June 2013, I had my next surgery. The surgeon was reluctant in performing the operation and told me that he couldn’t promise things would improve. I didn’t feel comfortable with him but went ahead with the surgery anyways, I just wanted the pain to stop. I was in the hospital for a few days, released in good health and six months later I moved to the USA.
My surgery didn’t go well and it added more complications to my life that I had no idea were even possible. The pain increased on a regular basis and became chronic.
As you’re sharing my journey, you’ll notice that I am a lot less ‘emotional’ about these two procedures as I have been about my first prolapse experience back in 2000. I’d spent years being unwell as it were. It was either something with my pelvis or my asthma. I would have one or two good years followed by something happening and it crushed me.
I felt like I was living the song “Comfortably Numb” by Pink Floyd during the time from 2003 – 2013. Missing my uterus receded like a ‘distant ship smoke on the horizon.’ Through the pain and constant health issues, my life became the ‘your lips move but I can’t hear what you say’ feeling. There were times I felt like a spectator to my own life instead of a participant. I shut down a lot of who I am and became someone I was not without even realizing it.
The difference between what I experienced in 2000 to what happened in these last two prolapses was that I felt my body was being repaired, nothing would be taken away. I had also hoped that after my 2013 surgery I’d be done with my ‘pelvic organ prolapse series’ of stories. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t be true. 2016 would be the year of two additional surgeries, all to be shared soon.
Ask More Questions!
One thing I’ve learned from all my experience is that I wish that I had asked more questions during all of the prolapses over the years. Today, when I reflect on the operations I’ve had due to the pelvic organ prolapse, I find myself wishing I’d understood my body better. I wish that I had sat down longer with the experts to ask more questions and understand my limitations.
I can’t give you a reason why I didn’t ask enough questions, in hindsight I would like to encourage you to talk to your doctor about everything. Don’t hesitate to explain all the activities in your life, the type of sex you have and the frequency, how often are you sick with colds, types of medications you regularly take. I didn’t talk about much of this with any doctor until 2016. I shared everything with my lung doctor except talking about my sex life, but when experiencing a pelvic prolapse, unfortunately any sense of privacy you have is off the table.
Be ready to share the most private parts of your life with your trusted doctor. It honestly helps them help you. You’re not a textbook case – you’re individual and your case may not be like anyone else’s. The doctor needs help to discover how unique you are and how to help you get back on track. A good doctor will listen to the patient just as a good patient will disclose everything possible in order to receive the best possible care.